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Storytelling through analytics

It’s almost Friday, so you are probably busy pulling together another “Weekly Report” – lots of charts, stats and a few graphs that show (hopefully) that your campaigns are generating interest and, more importantly, revenue. Think your job is done, right? Not quite. As the harbinger of useful information, your job isn’t just to make sure the information gets into someone else’s hands, but also to make sure they know what they are seeing.

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Scott Rankin, wrote a great post on how to effectively design dashboards. It’s a very easy-to-read, actionable list of key things to think about as you build your reports. Things like, only include information that is relevant to your audience, that provides strategic information and clear insight. Sounds easy, right?

It’s our job (in the analyst/marketing operations roles) to tell the story.  I know that I was naturally drawn to more operational roles because I don’t consider myself a content person. But part of personal growth is finding those limitations and working toward fixing them. People remember stories, not necessarily data points. What about your charts and graphs tells a good story and how is that relevant to the people getting an inbox full of charts and graphs?

First, let’s think back to elementary school, when you would write a story that had a beginning, a middle and an end. You didn’t just throw a character on the page and have a final outcome, you had to develop the story a little bit. Start off by giving key highlights, tell a good story with the data, don’t just show the data. The marketing operations guru who can tell the narrative of the campaign, its execution and final results in an engaging way will help drive home the important message instead of just cramming data into an inbox.

Stories have a cause-and-effect relationship. In the book, “Elements of Persuasion,” Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman define the elements of a good story as:

  • The passion with which the story is told
  • A hero to drive the action
  • An obstacle or an antagonist to challenge the hero
  • A moment of awareness where the hero realizes how he can overcome the obstacle
  • A transformation in the hero and the world around him

It is definitely not simple to take the elements of your dashboard and find a compelling story to deliver every time. Don’t think of this as a weekly exercise, but more a monthly or quarterly one. It important to show the passion behind the work that you and your teammates do. Instilling passion in your story will illustrate the consequences to the events described and show your executives the relevance of what is being done. Illustrate how the tactics being used overcome a challenge for the company and what surpassing that challenge means for the whole. Remember to ask yourself, what is the story here? Do this every time you prepare reports and decks so you aren’t creating Death by Powerpoint for the poor soul who has to read what you are creating.

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About Lauren Kincke
Lauren is the Oracle Practice Manager for the Pedowitz Group. She is an Eloqua Partner Certified Consultant, Certified Salesforce.com Administrator, and has nearly a decade of wide ranging sales and marketing technology experience.

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  • Posted by Lauren Kincke
  • On 06/23/2015
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Tags: marketing automation, marketing analytics, design dashboards

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